USDA seeks public input on SNAP use in grocery stores

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, August 4, 2014 - The USDA published a Request for Information (RFI) with the Federal Register today and is seeking public comment regarding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) use in grocery stores.

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"Our goal is to provide more transparency so that people can have access to basic information about the amount of SNAP benefits that individual grocery stores and retailers are redeeming," Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said.

The public comment period comes after a South Dakota Newspaper, the Argus Leader, challenged theFreedom of Information Act (FOIA) by requesting annual SNAP retailer redemption data from authorized SNAP retailers.

On January 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that SNAP retailer redemption information did not fall within the withheld information section of FOIA. However, the ruling did not clarify if SNAP data is considered a “trade secret” which is protected by FOIA.

To make the determination, USDA is required to seek feedback from stakeholders, like SNAP retailers, on whether data from individual stores is confidential under FOIA.

The USDA is also considering if adjustments should be made to SNAP regulations regarding the release of SNAP retailer transaction data in the future based on input from the public.

According to the Food and Nutrition Service, at the end of fiscal year 2013, more than 250,000 retailers were authorized to accept SNAP benefits. A majority of benefits, more than 80 percent, were redeemed at supermarkets, large grocers and superstores. Approximately 18 percent of benefits were exchanged at smaller stores, including convenience stores, small grocers and farmers' markets.

SNAP supplements the monthly food budget of more than 46 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, nine percent are over 60 and more than 40 percent live in households with earnings.

Comments may be submitted through the Federal Register until September 8. 

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